According to an NBC analysis, almost 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills were filed across the United States in the first few months of 2022. That’s about three bills filed every day from January to March.
While the legislation takes aim at a range of rights for people in the LGBTQ+ community, over half of the bills specifically set out to restrict the rights of transgender adults and teens.
For the people with loved ones that will be directly affected by these bills, it can be hard to know how to best support them. For caregivers, the need to protect their gender non-conforming children has never been more pressing.
To help families navigate this terrifying time, authors Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper are releasing a revised version of their 2008 book, “The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals Supporting Transgender and Non-binary Children.”
Verywell spoke to Pepper, who supports transgender and gender-nonconforming children as a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), about the new edition of “The Transgender Child,” which covers topics like affirming parenting practices, gender development, and medical decision-making.
Verywell: For background, what prompted you to write “The Transgender Child?”
Pepper: Stephanie and I were both working in the field as educators and writers and saw a tremendous need for resources.
We realized that with our joint experience, we could create a book that would provide hope and potentially life-saving information for families struggling to understand and support their children
Verywell: Why release a revised edition now?
Pepper: It has been almost 15 years since the original publication of “The Transgender Child.” So much has changed since then—the language we use to talk about gender identity development, options for social and/or medical congruence, and how to advocate for a child at school and out in the world.
We felt strongly that such an important resource should be updated to reflect these changes.
Verywell: What do you hope most people will learn from reading this book?
Pepper: We hope that parents and professionals will gain a better understanding of the stages of gender identity development, and how to best support and affirm their own child or children they may work with as teachers, coaches, etc.
Listen to them. Believe them. As a parent, get your own education on these issues by reading books like ours.
We also want caregivers to understand that they may be on a parallel journey along with their child or teen, but this journey has its own issues.
It’s important for caregivers to know that it’s normal for them to experience feelings of overwhelm, sadness, and confusion in the beginning, but that they can go on to become fierce advocates for their children, and in fact, for all children.
Verywell: Why write about transgender and non-binary children specifically and not the transgender population as a whole?
Pepper: Fifteen years ago, there was a huge lack of any compassionately written, affirming materials for parents of transgender and nonbinary children.
We wrote the book to help families realize they were not alone and to provide education and resources about who their children were and what they as parents and caregivers could do to better understand and support their children.
This need still exists. There are plenty of other types of books available that address the needs of the adult transgender population.
Verywell: What do transgender and non-binary children need from adults?
Pepper: Like all children, these children and teens need the unconditional love and support of their caregivers. They need open communication and for adults to believe them. They need adults who will identify and address bullying and take their medical and mental health needs seriously.
These legislators are operating outside their range of experience and in direct opposition to all reputable medical evidence.
These children also need the adults in their lives to really understand that they can have bright futures and that with the right support, they will become successful, happy, healthy individuals who are loved by others and can form families of their own one day.
Verywell: Why do you think so many lawmakers are passing legislation that prevents transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming care?
Pepper: Let’s remember that all major reputable American pediatric organizations support a gender-affirming model.
These legislators are operating outside their range of experience and in direct opposition to all reputable medical evidence. It is shameful. They would not vote to withhold care for any other group of children, such as cancer patients or young people with diabetes.
Gender-affirming medical treatment should be between a family and their medical providers—not the state.
These legislators are using a fear-based perspective to advance their own political agendas and justify oppressing others. The same folks want to control women’s reproductive freedom, outlaw gay marriage, oppress and villainize all racial and ethnic minorities, and yes, target transgender adults, teens, and children.
They believe in rigid gender essentialism and often [have] a White nationalist perspective. And everything that challenges this viewpoint they consider a threat.
Again, it is outside their scope of practice; gender-affirming medical treatment should be between a family and their medical providers—not the state.
Verywell: What impact do these anti-transgender youth rulings have on transgender and non-binary children?
Pepper: Transgender and nonbinary children and teens, and their families, are scared. This backlash has caused a lot of pain already.
Being targeted in this way is a systemic form of bullying [that is] condoned by legislators. These kids are paying a price with conditions such as higher rates of anxiety and depression. Rates of self-harm and suicide may go up, too.
Families may have to move out of their communities to other states to receive the care their children need. Or young people may be told that they cannot expect any form of gender congruence nor any relief from dysphoria until they are 18.
The implications for young people are grave. Rather than it being child abuse to relieve a child’s suffering and provide [them with] safe, affirming medical care endorsed by major American pediatric organizations, this systemic bullying is its own form of child abuse.
Verywell: What’s the best way to support these youth while so many states are passing legislation that impacts them?
Pepper: Listen to them. Believe them. As a parent, get your own education on these issues by reading books like ours. Explore options; there are always options.
You are your child’s first and best advocate.
Build a safe bubble around your child if needed. Donate to organizations that are fighting these laws.
Network with other parents across the country and find out how other families are getting around these laws. You may need to get medical care in other areas of the country.
Find a gender-affirming therapist trained to help guide your family in this journey. Show up and speak to legislators and protest when possible in your own state.
You are your child’s first and best advocate. If they see you walking beside them and keeping them safe, this will make a big difference.
The updated edition of “The Transgender Child” will be available on June 14, 2022.